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to say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that hamlet is so much paper and ink.
j. b. priestley

i’m not much of a sports fan–to be quite honest. i gave up following our local baseball team in 7th grade when a large let-down rather led me to believe my father was right–they would always let us down at the last moment. it was in my personality to reject football (american) as an intrinsic part of the american culture with which i did not want to engage. basketball never interested me, and hockey was never popular in my city–i couldn’t even tell you if we had any kind of local hockey team. at the college level–i have yet to be to a football game in my decade of association with the university.

but there are sporting events–like the olympics–that i do greatly enjoy. when i was in first grade i spent a very ill couple weeks drinking chamomile tea and watching the ’88 seoul olympics. and it’s possible that my favorite movie as a little girl “animal olympics” influenced the way i watched them. more-or-less, i find the internationalism compelling. and having them on the tv in the background is comforting.

soccer, though, i find highly fascinating. the sport has such impact on almost every country except the united states. and now, as it starts to become popular in my city, i find the sense of engaging with something that is truely international amazing. engaging with soccer as i know humans do around the world feels connective. one game, one ball, one set of rules. something that transcends culture and language. watching the players on the pitch compete–but also the existing culture of respectful competition (generally). and now, i am finding the world cup enchanting.

the games played in south africa start, in my city, at 4:30 am. so, with a group of friends that live in our apartment building, we drag ourselves up and walk three blocks to azzurri–an italian vino and soccer bar. the barkeeper at azzurri is from sicily, and makes amazing food. on the second day of the world cup, we stumbled in to watch south korea play greece. his world cup “special” breakfast was made of two homemade croissants–one stuffed with nutella, and the other stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese, and a cappuccino. it was pretty amazing. at 6am he can legally serve peroni beers as well. and you can order one of his delicious pizzas, or panini–michele (the bartender) is also rumored to have the best lasagna in our entire city.

my team, of course, was the south korea national football team. or, fondly called by fans–the reds. decked out in my soccer scarf and south korea t-shirt, i also made an early morning appearance at the george & dragon, an amazing and authentic english pub–which was apparently featured on the news many times during the world cup. at 4:30 am, the pub was packed with people in red shirts–south korea supporters, and blue–argentina supporters. someone brought a korean drum and was drumming out the battle cry of the fans of the reds, while eating an english breakfast bap (eggs, bacon, cheese on a floured roll) and english breakfast tea.

it was fun to watch the us team play–especially when giddy, happy fans poured into the streets of our neighborhood, honking their horns as they made their way to work. but i love going to watch other teams play–because the matches draw an international crowd of exchange students, ex-pats, and immigrants–and people of various descents–out sporting national pride. and when else can the world’s less-influential countries take on the big-hitters–and win?

on a day that south korea and argentina both advanced into the final 16 stage from group c, i walked onto the bus in my aforementioned soccer gear. the man sitting across from me was wearing an argentina jersey, and we exchanged, small, but delighted, smiles.

feeling connected.

south korea 2014!

who’s your team?